The history of Ebola began when the disease was first recognized in 1976. The name "Ebola" came from a river in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire), in Africa, where the virus was first recognized. There have been 18 confirmed outbreaks of the disease since 1976.
Ebola hemorrhagic fever (also just called Ebola or EHF) is a highly contagious illness and is often fatal in nonhuman primates (chimpanzees, monkeys, and gorillas) and humans. The cause of outbreaks is an infection with the Ebola virus (see Ebola Pictures). The virus got its name from a river in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire), in Africa, where it was first recognized.
There are four identified subtypes of Ebola virus. Three of the four have caused disease in humans:
- Ebola-Ivory Coast
The fourth Ebola virus subtype, Ebola-Reston, has not caused disease in humans, but has in nonhuman primates.
(Click Causes of Ebola for more information.)
Ever since Ebola was first recognized in 1976, outbreaks have appeared sporadically. Confirmed cases of Ebola virus infections have been reported in:
- The Democratic Republic of the Congo
- The Ivory Coast
- The Republic of the Congo
In the United States, no case of Ebola in humans has ever been reported. Ebola-Reston virus caused severe illness and death in monkeys imported to research facilities in the United States and Italy from the Philippines; during these Ebola outbreaks, several research workers became infected with the virus but did not become ill.